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Fact 1: The LSAT is a standardized test.
Fact 2: Your entire LSAT score depends on your answers to multiple choice questions.
Fact 3: All of these multiple choice questions have 4 wrong answers and 1 right answer.
Erroneous Conclusion: Therefore, there’s no room for creativity on the LSAT.
The assumption here, which tons of test-takers make, is that there’s no such thing as out-of-the-box thinking on questions where there’s one definite right answer. And it seems to make sense. How can you possibly be inventive when there’s so little wiggle room?
In this post, I’m going to describe a few ways you can take the LSAT on your own terms, with creative thinking and on-the-fly improvisation, instead of taking it how the test makers expect.
Let’s dive in!
Here’s a straightforward strategy that you might already be using. On Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension questions, it’s almost always better to look for 4 wrong answers instead of 1 right answer.
This isn’t exactly a novel idea: on most standardized tests, and probably many tests you’ve taken in high school or college, you’ve probably done just that.
However, you should realize two things.
First, this is absolutely an example of creativity in test-taking!
Your process (wrong-to-right) differs from the most obvious way to accomplish your goal (finding the right answer in the least amount of time) because you might think (A) is correct, but still spend time checking out (B) through (E). In other words, it might seem like what you’re doing isn’t the optimal way to take the LSAT, but in actuality, your strategy is better than what the test-makers expect.
Second, working wrong-to-right is especially important on the LSAT.
I’m-a-Dork Alert: the LSAT is an interesting, fun, beautifully-balanced test, not to mention an incredible challenge. Working wrong-to-right, while it may take slightly more time, is insurance against getting tricked by trap answers, feeling rushed and picking an answer that seems right (but isn’t), false confidence in your answer choice, and so on. It’s a buffer between your answer sheet and your inner confirmation bias.
Here’s another biggie.
The LSAT is a linear test—each section starts at question 1 and ends at question 25, or 28, or somewhere in between. (Unlike, say, the GMAT, which dynamically serves you questions.)
This means that, also unlike the GMAT, everyone taking a certain test faces the same tough question #14, and an easy #17, and an impossible #21, and a straightforward #25… You get the point.
It’s a natural instinct for most people to go from question #1 to question #25, experiencing the rollercoaster of difficulty (and emotions) that accompany every LSAT section. If one or two questions completely stump you, maybe you’ll skip them and save them for last, if you have time.
But what if you choose which questions to skip ahead of time?
Let’s say you know that Match the Reasoning questions take you forever, and that Principle Example questions usually confuse you, and that you spend too much time on questions #17 and #18 and wind up missing the easier #24 and #25. If you’ve studied well and come to understand your personalized strengths and weaknesses, then you should plan ahead!
By skipping according to question type, or difficulty, or even just location (in the danger zone? skip!), you take back control over your timing on the LSAT. So long as you don’t let strategic skipping get in the way of your bubble-filling or forget which questions you guessed on, you should take the LSAT in the order that suits you best.
Those are two big strategies you can—and should—use to turn the tables on the LSAT test-makers. Even if you were already working wrong-to-right and skipping strategically, it’s useful to acknowledge that these strategies are creative, personalized, and improvisational. You bring your own skills and needs to the test.
In the next installment, we’ll take a look at a few smaller but less intuitive strategies to tackle the LSAT on your own terms. See you then! ?
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Ben Rashkovich is a Manhattan Prep LSAT instructor based in New York, NY. He’s a graduate of Columbia University, and he scored a 172 on the LSAT. He enjoys the mental challenge and logical acrobatics of the LSAT—and he feels that studying for the test can teach everyone to approach problems more rationally. You can check out Ben’s upcoming LSAT courses here!